Rummanah Aasi
Description: As a child in the late 1800s, Horace Pippin loved to draw: He loved the feel of the charcoal as it slid across the floor. He loved looking at something in the room and making it come alive again in front of him. He drew pictures for his sisters, his classmates, his co-workers. Even during W.W.I, Horace filled his notebooks with drawings from the trenches . . . until he was shot. Upon his return home, Horace couldn't lift his right arm, and couldn't make any art. Slowly, with lots of practice, he regained use of his arm, until once again, he was able to paint--and paint, and paint! Soon, people--including the famous painter N. C. Wyeth--started noticing Horace's art, and before long, his paintings were displayed in galleries and museums across the country.

Review: A Splash of Red is a biography picture book of self-taught African-American artist Horace Pippin. As a child, Pippin drew pictures at every opportunity, but due to his family's economic struggles he had less free time for art and instead picked up other jobs such as stacking grain sacks, shoveling coal at a rail yard, and he even served in the army in World War I. Despite a war injury to his right arm, Pippin adapted in order to continue drawing and painting, eventually leading to recognition and fame in the art world. Before reading this book I knew virtually nothing of Horace Pippin, but this book's great artwork infused many art techniques such as collages that blend thick, solid color blocks with motifs that reflect Pippin's inner emotions and his wide range of artwork from war scenes to that of children at play. What really stood out to me were the quotations from Pippin about the psychological scars of war and his artistic process which are are hand-drawn and further emphasizes that for Pippin art wasn't just a past-time, but his means for catharsis and trying to understand the world around him.

Curriculum Connection: Art and Black History Month

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K-3

If you like this book try: Art from Her Heart by Kathy Whitehead, Draw What You See by Kathleen Benson

Description: Alan loves animals, but the great cat house at the Bronx Zoo makes him sad. Why are they all alone in empty cages? Are they being punished? More than anything, he wants to be their champion—their voice—but he stutters uncontrollably. Except when he talks to animals. Then he is fluent.

Review: A Boy and a Jaguar is a poignant autobiography in which author Alan Rabinowitz recalls the alienation he felt as a child who thought he was “broken” because he stuttered. While he had difficulties in speaking in class and around large groups of people, Alan could easily communicate with small groups of people and with animals. Thus his bond with and love for animals was born. As he grows up, Alan learns to both conquer and embrace the fact that he will always be a stutterer, and he soon becomes an advocate for animals.
 I really liked how the illustrations were a bit understated and more emphasis was given to the expressive faces that spoke more than the actual text. I also liked how the illustrator played around the sizes of the various characters of the book. For example, Alan is shown as this small boy who can easily be overlooked when he has to speak up in class and as his confidence grows so does he. The animals have a mystical and mysterious quality to them as Alan gazes into their eyes and "speaks" to them. I think this a great read that remind us that there are many ways to tell a story, with or without words.

Rating: 4

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades K-3

If you like this book try: Can we save the tiger? by Martin Jenkins, The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins

Description: What is a haiku? It sounds like a sneeze. and isn't a lantern a light source? Actually, they are two types of ancient Japanese poetry.

Review: I always had difficulty in sparking interest in poetry for students, but If It Rains Pancakes makes poetry look fun and easy. In easy to understand language, the author explains two forms of Japanese poetry the hiaku and lantern poems. I was already familiar with hiaku, but I didn't know about lantern poems before this book. The examples of both forms of poetry are given withe a wide range of interests from a silly poem about a pet pig doing karate to the weather seasons. The illustrations like the poems are also fun and vibrant, complementing the poems nicely. If younger readers are having a hard time grasping the poem, they can use the illustrations as a reference and practice their inferring skills.

Curriculum Connection: English

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 1-3

If you like this book try: I Haiku You by Betsy Snyder, Guyku: A Year of Haikus for Boys by Bob Raczka
3 Responses
  1. Such interesting picks this week. I like the sound of the Pancake book because it has been a long time since I studied how to write poetry.

  2. Oh these sound good, but I think I may have to read A Splash of Red for myself. :)

  3. Kindlemom Says:

    Three good reads in a row, woo hoo! Your off to a great start this year!

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